The pen contains a pre-measured dose of insulin in a disposable cartridge. Users simply push a button on the pen, and the proper dose of medication is injected through a needle. A syringe user must extract the exact dose of insulin from a vial. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 21 million people in the United States are diabetic. Experts say the disease accounts for $132 billion in health care expenditures each year.

Rajesh Balkrishnan, the study’s senior author and the Merrell Dow professor of pharmacy at Ohio State University and his colleagues followed more than 1,300 diabetic adults enrolled in a Medicaid program in North Carolina. Each patient had failed treatment with oral medications prescribed to control the symptoms of their disease and had begun insulin therapy. Oral drugs are typically the first course of treatment when someone is initially diagnosed with type II diabetes.

The researchers compared 1,162 patients who started insulin therapy with a syringe to 168 who began their therapy with a pen. The researchers tallied all healthcare costs related to diabetes, including visits to an emergency room, hospitalisations, outpatient visits, prescription costs and costs to treat conditions related to the disease. They also collected data on insulin refill rates for each patient. Refill rates are a way of determining if patients take their medications regularly.

The numbers showed that the annual average healthcare costs were nearly $17,000 lower insulin for pen users than for syringe users ($14,857 versus $31,764.) These figures represent the average amount reimbursed by Medicaid for diabetes-related care. “The numbers suggest that the proper use of prescriptions can translate into major healthcare savings,” Balkrishnan said.

MEDICA.de; Source: Ohio State University